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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

326                             THE GAY GENIUS

There is not a time in our life when we are not living upon an island.
Imagine that you pour some water on the ground. A little blade
of grass floats on top of it, and upon this blade an ant is clinging
for his life. The ant does not know what to do. In a little while
the water dries up and the ant crawls away safely. Meeting other
ants, it says with tears in its eyes: 'Alas I never thought I would
see you again!' How could the ant know that in the twinkling of/
an eye it would be able to go wherever it wants? It amuses me to
think of this idea. I am writing this after a little sip-with some
friends."

Su Tnngpo was either stubborn, or else he was truly in possession
of himself. At least he never lost his sen^e of humour. The monk
Tsanliao sent an acolyte to Hainan to see him, with a letter and
presents, and proposed to come himself and visit this poet. In reply
Su Tungpo wrote: "I have been in this place over half a year and can
somehow get along. I need not go into the details. Think of me as a
monk who has been driven out of the Lingying Temple and is now
living in a small cottage, eating simple peasant meals! I can live my
life this way to the end of my days. As to malaria and other diseases,
are there not diseases also in the north? One can die of all kinds of
diseases and not of malaria only. It is true, there are no doctors around
this place, but think how many people are annually killed by doctors
at the capital! I know you will laugh when you read this, and cease
to worry about me. When friends ask about me, just tell them what I
have said."

Perhaps his attitude towards life in the island was best illustrated by
a note in his journal written in the last year of his exile.

"This is January 15, 1099, the Festival of Shangyuan. I am living
at Tanchow. Several old scholars have come to Visit me. Kuo said:
'Father, can you come out for a stroll? There is such a beautiful
moon and the night is so calm.' Happily I accepted the suggestion
and we all went out to the western part of the town and entered a
temple. We passed through small alleys filled with the Chinese and
the tribesmen. There was quite a crowd at the wine shops. By the
time we returned, it was already midnight, and the servants were
snoring in their sleep. Thinking that fortune and adversity were all
the same, I laid my cane behind the door and laughed. 'What are
you laughing at, Father?' Kuo asked. 'I was laughing at myself and
at Han Yu,' I replied. 'Han Yu was once fishing. He could not
catch any fish, and thought he could catch them by going to another
place. He did not know that by' going to the sea, one does not
necessarily catch big fish!*M